Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Real time coaching for success

In my career, I have had the good fortune of program managing a few On the Job Training (OJT) programs for business groups that support clients by receiving calls and providing solutions. 

A well known practice that exists in such groups is the concept of having a floor-walking coach. What such a coach does is pretty interesting and according to me, directly has a positive impact on business success.

What makes a floor coach so effective?

1. The floor coach is basically 'available' at all times. 
2. She is clear on what falls within her area of help and what doesn't. If she is there to help develop client support and communication skills, she doesn't try to get into business process issues.
3. He comes to the place of the employee. 
4. She monitors employees even when they don't express the need for help.
5. He coaches - primarily asks vs. tells
6. She provides feedback to help the employees get successful

Having worked in R&D, IT services and IT product organizations, I have worked with and facilitated the development of atleast 2000 middle to senior level managers in India. They are wonderful individuals to work with and are, in most cases ready to do better to get better

  • They are usually engineering graduates and  most of them have been successful techies and have coded in the earlier part of their careers. 
  • Most of their people management skills are derived from either role modeling their first manager or more often than not, from "the school of hard knocks".
  • Some of them might have attended a first time leader program in their companies, and once at the workplace, but haven't really been able to practice these skills at the workplace since it might have meant a large amount of change in behaviour at a personal level. The feeling of being a 'phoney' might have sent them packing after one or two tentative trials of new behaviours.

Middle management is the critical surface area where the rubber hits the road. Having a population that is not quite equipped to implement simple tools in feedback, change management and hiring right - is a sure recipe for losing business and people.

I do not think the day is far off when IT services and product organizations have full time behaviour coaches on their rolls. 

  • Someone who is available to managers for help and support. 
  • Someone who doesn't have anything to do with their compensation.
  • Someone who is able to empathise and mirror.
  • Someone who helps them understand change at an emotional level.
  • Someone they can reach out to when they know there is a better way to something.
  • Someone who can help them become more successful.

Such coaches can also be attached to the participants of a program such as matrix management or a 360 degree feedback.

Just to visualize a scenario, imagine that there is a manager whose 360 df has indicated that he needs to give more genuine appreciation. He has a situation where he needs to give appreciation. His first reaction is to handout a 'judgemental' "good job!". As he is about to do that, he remembers something that he discussed with his coach. He takes a moment and reaches out. The coach walks along with him to frame a structured appreciation email (based on a framework such as STAR). The manager uses this and feels good. In short, he has done better to get better.

The basic disconnect in any behaviour change training and development is that it is easy to understand and difficult to implement. A structure of having 'real time workplace' coaches will go a long way in helping managers get even more successful.

Thank you for taking time to read my article.

Happiness. A state of active living.

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